Are you looking to redesign your website?
That’s great! If the last time you tweaked your site’s design was a decade ago, then it’s definitely time to make it more appealing and mobile-friendly for today’s audience. But when doing a site redesign, you also need to make sure you don’t lose authority or search traffic.
That’s why factoring SEO in redesign is crucial. Numerous codes and pages can be altered during a website redesign, which can hurt your SEO efforts and affect your site’s long-term growth.
How does website redesign affect SEO?
One of the biggest website redesign SEO concerns is the fear of losing old progress. After all, it will take some time for Google to index your new site, and an even longer time to grow organic traffic.
Another issue related to website redesign is tech problems. New sites often run into tech issues, especially after the initial launch when the kinks still need to be worked out. This effect of website redesign can impact your SEO, both because Google can flag your site as low-quality and also because visitors will click away due to poor user experience.
However, when done correctly, website redesign can work wonders for SEO. With the right strategy and an expert website design team, you can work to maintain the SEO progress you’ve already made and even build it up quicker than before. Experienced web designers will also work out your site’s problems before it goes live to ensure the redesign doesn’t hurt your SEO. Additionally, redesigning your website to become faster and more mobile-friendly will get you a boost in rankings.
Site redesign SEO checklist
An SEO website redesign isn’t a walk in the park and it can easily become a disaster if not done right. To help you achieve a successful site redesign, here’s an SEO checklist that guides you through all the necessary steps.
- Create a list of all pages from your old website
- Redesign the website on a temporary URL
- Test the new website
- Redirect old URLs to new URLs with proper 301 redirections
- Make the switch to the new website
- Verify your new website with Google Search Console
- Check that Google can index your new website properly
- Check robots.txt
- Optimize and submit sitemap
- Monitor the changes in your rankings
It’s normal to change the URL structure of a page, but don’t forget to let Google and other search engines know of the changes. If you don’t, you’ll damage your rankings, decrease domain authority and lose organic traffic.
To avoid this scenario, download the URL structure of your website. Redesigning will affect the URL structure of your site, so it’s important to back it up. There are many SEO plugins available that will get the URL structure for you.
It’s not recommended to work directly on your live website as a lot of things can go awry when you start changing the design. A good practice is to copy your existing website to a temporary URL, work on the changes there, and then just switch the domain when it’s ready to go live. You also need to make sure that your testing website won’t be indexed by Google to avoid issues with duplicate content.
If there’s any potential that you will struggle with this part, you can always get help from your web developer or your SEO services provider. They can set up everything and protect you from unforeseen issues in the future.
Next step on our website redesign for SEO checklist is creating page-by-page 301 redirections. Let’s say you changed some, or even all, of your URLs. For example, your old Contact Us page had this URL: https://yourwebsite.com/contactus.html. But with the new design, it’s now https://yourwebsite.com/contact-us.
With proper 301 redirects, you can be sure that both URLs work and you don’t lose the SEO benefits you gained from your old URL. Check out this very informative article from ahrefs on how to properly do a 301 redirect.
Keep in mind that this step is very important! If you don’t do this after website redesign, your previous SEO efforts will be downgraded by Google.
After all the hard work you’ve put in designing, developing and testing your new website, it’s only a click away from being live.
At this step of the website redesign SEO checklist, Google recommends initially moving just a piece of the site to test any effects on search indexing and traffic. After that, you can move the rest of your site in chunks or all at once. If possible, time your move to coincide with lower traffic to reduce the impact of anything that breaks during the transfer.
After your new website goes live, immediately check if everything works properly. To make sure you didn’t miss anything from the last test, you can perform a quick broken links check again.
Next, login to your Google Search Console to see if your website is still verified. If it isn’t, verify it again so that you can monitor how search engines index your new website. The tool also enables you to run another check to see if there are broken links. If there are any broken links found, fix them quickly to avoid penalties. This will help keep your SEO efforts afloat after redesign.
Within Google Search Console, use the URL Inspection tool to ensure that Google can correctly read and index your newly deployed website. If no issues are found, click the “Request Indexing” button to speed up the indexing process.
Another thing to ensure that you don’t lose SEO during a redesign is to check your robots file with the robots.txt tester option. During the website redesign, there’s a chance that your robot.txt file can become corrupted.
Correct this as soon as possible because an incorrect configuration in your robot.txt file can deny access to search engine crawlers.
As your new website has a modified structure and new URLs, resubmit your XML sitemap to Google. This well help Google index your redesigned website faster and avoid significant dips with your rankings.
Once submitted, your redesigned website will be crawled in the coming hours.
Last but definitely not the least, it’s important to monitor the changes in your rankings and look for any potential growth. After all, it’s expected that website redesign can cause SEO changes to your site.
You can either do it manually by keeping a record of the ranking positions of specific keywords or use ranking tools like ahrefs and Semrush. What you want to track and identify are big changes in rankings, either negative or positive, so you can take corrective actions.
If there’s a significant change in your SEO right after redesign, keep in mind that it’s normal to see big fluctuations in the first few days. Don’t panic if there’s a sudden drop or rejoice once there’s a sudden increase. Monitor the website for at least two to three months before making further dramatic changes.
Other SEO factors in website redesign
If you dramatically change the content of your website during redesign, your SEO rankings might be negatively affected. To avoid that, try to change only the design elements of the website. Don’t touch the content as much as possible.
Once you go live after the redesign, monitor your ranking positions and track if there are any serious changes. Only proceed with making changes or improvements to the content after your new website goes live.
What many fail to consider is that user experience is critical to SEO, making website redesign an opportunity for you to improve your site’s UX. If users have a good experience on your newly redesigned website, your bounce rate will decrease and that bounce rate will factor into how well you rank on Google.
Before launching a new design, make some tests and ask for constructive feedback from experts and friends. Above all, you want your new website to be attractive, user-friendly and rich in relevant content so that users will have a reason to stay and revisit you in the future.
Social media counts (likes, shares, and other activities) will change once you change the URLs. As soon as you go live, you’ll notice that your social media counts will go to zero (for the individual pages and not the domain). Breathe. Don’t panic. This is normal.
It will take some time but sooner or later, the social media platforms will read the 301 redirections and the social media counts you’ve earned over the years will be transferred over to the new pages.
Redesigning your website can be daunting, especially if you’re worried your SEO will be negatively affected. But if you just follow the steps in our site redesign SEO checklist, you’ll maintain your rankings even after your overhaul. As long as you know how important your website’s SEO is, redesign won’t be an issue.
Additionally, you have more to gain than lose in SEO with a website redesign. Once you have a faster, mobile-friendly, and easier-to-navigate site, your rankings will steadily improve and you’ll see a boost in website traffic.